Masks can be Murder

Wearing masks can create a sense of anonymity for an aggressor, while also dehumanizing the victim. This prevents empathy, empowering violence, and murder. 

So that you know my bona fides, I wrote the book On Killing and created a new field of scholarly endeavor known as “killology” to understand and reduce violence in our society. Criminology is not about teaching people to be criminals, and killology is not about teaching people to kill. It is about understanding the factors that empower and restrain killing in our society.

I also wrote Assassination Generation. After the Parkland, Florida, school massacre, I was invited to the White House as part of the President’s round table on violent video games and had the honor of giving the President a copy of that book. This is why I am qualified to talk about murders and masks.

People often point to some horrible crime and declare, “This proves humans are naturally killers!” 

My response to them is, “No. That’s an outlier. It is literally one-in-a-million. You explain to me the 99.9% who will go a lifetime, and never even seriously attempt to take a human life. Explain that!” 

Every time one person interacts with another there is a “friction point” adding up to billions of friction points every day. An amazing array of social, physical, psychological, and physiological factors provide a “lubricant” for each of these friction points, to prevent physical violence and murder.

-“Killing Enabling Factors” Illustration from On Killing by Lt.Col. Dave Grossman

Masks are like a handful of sand in an automobile engine, increasing the “friction” at . . . Every. Single. One. Of these billions of daily contact points.

We understand that people will say things online that they would never say face-to-face. Masks create a similar sense of anonymity for the aggressor, empowering interpersonal violence, and hostility across our nation. 

Research tells us that if you are kidnapped and blindfolded by your captors, you are far more likely to be murdered. You would think, “I cannot identify my captors, so I am less of a threat to them.” But your potential long-term threat is not what is keeping you alive. It is looking into the face of another human being — thus creating a powerful biological sense of empathy — that is the most important factor keeping that captive alive. 

The face is the window to the soul and covering the face with a mask erodes empathy and empowers interpersonal aggression.

That is why individuals being executed by hanging or firing squad, are traditionally blindfolded or hooded. Mass murders committed by criminals, terrorists, or totalitarian states, often involve shooting victims in the back of the head or beheading them from behind. Once again, covering or hiding the face negates empathy, and empowers some of the ghastliest forms of mass murder.

Masks also muffle voices, causing people to shout to be understood -- but shouting signals aggression! When someone shouts at you, you immediately become defensive and hostile. And the situation can spiral downward from there, into aggression, violence, and even murder

At a basic, intuitive, almost “biological” level, we understand this. We inherently distrust and fear anyone wearing a mask and the muffled shouts that come from that individual.

Masks can contribute to daily dehumanization, desensitization, alienation, anxiety, and social isolation. This can incite a spontaneous violent act, often resulting in a single homicide committed in a fit of rage.

There’ also a form of “chronic withdrawal” caused by a long-term build-up of alienation and isolation that can result in mass murders and massacres.  I pray that I am wrong, but I think it is highly likely that in the coming years we will see day-care massacres, school bus massacres, and vehicles used as weapons of mass murder. These crimes have happened around the world, and it may be only a matter of time until they come to our nation. (There are many things we can do, right now, to mitigate the possible loss of life from such attacks.)

What else is left to shock us? What else is there, that will create media coverage, and provide the fame that the alienated enraged killer desires? We are on a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching descent into ever greater acts of evil.

I cannot speak to the medical aspects of quarantine, disease, and masks. But I can definitively state that having our entire population interact with each other while wearing masks is one of the most physically and psychologically harmful things we can do. Masks can lead our nation into ever deeper depths of violence, death, despair, and heartache.

There is one other important dynamic that we must consider. A monstrous mass murder, by a single individual, can create more psychosocial trauma than countless deaths by disease. In its section on PTSD, the DSM (the “bible” of psychology and psychiatry) tells us that, whenever the cause of trauma is “human in nature” (such as assault, torture, or rape) the degree of trauma is “more severe and long-lasting.” 

Millions die from disease every day, and it has little impact on our behavior, but one serial killer or serial rapist can paralyze a city. Thus, the overall societal harm of fear, isolation, distrust, and violence created by masks can be far greater than the harm caused by disease. 

Finally, we must understand that the murder rate under-represents the level of violence because medical technology is saving ever more lives. 

In 2002, Anthony Harris and a team of scholars from the University of Massachusetts and Harvard published their landmark research in the journal Homicide Studies. They concluded that, between 1960 and 1999, advances in medical technology cut the murder rate to a third, or a quarter, of what it would otherwise be. And the leaps and bounds of life-saving technology in the decades since then, have saved the lives of even more victims of violence. Thus “preventing” many more murders. 

Everyone understands the concept of “inflation-adjusted dollars.” When we finally start reporting “medically-adjusted murders” then we will begin to appreciate just how desperately, tragically bad the situation has become. For every murder we report, there are ever-increasing numbers of our citizens physically maimed and scarred, and emotionally crippled and traumatized by violence. 

And how much more so, when we create vastly more “friction” by throwing that "handful of sand" into the engine-block of our civilization by making everyone interact with each other while wearing masks? 

For those living on the edge of physical and emotional well-being, for individuals who must interact every day with potentially hostile employees or customers, for those who are already on the edge of committing violence, for all the “real people” out there, mandating masks can be especially harmful.

This policy has already resulted in an erosion of emotional wellbeing, and an explosion of violent crime. And it is something that we can stop, right now, to save lives.

Masks truly can be murder.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is a US Army Ranger and a former West Point Psychology Professor. He is the author of a dozen books, including his “perennial bestsellers” On Killing, On CombatAssassination Generation, and a New York Times best-seller co-authored with Glenn Beck. He has written many peer-reviewed encyclopedia and journal entries in his area of expertise, and he has been inducted as a "Life Diplomate" by the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security, and a "Life Member" of the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute. 

IMAGE: Man in mask by Pxfuel.